Being expat

What I like about living in the Netherlands (part 2)

In this second post about “What I like about living in the Netherlands” I will list up the things I like in everyday life, with my Dutch friends etc.

1) First of all, I love my Dutch friends. This is probably the main reason I feel at home here and why I feel very uncomfortable when others complain about anything Dutch.

BURENDAG2) Another thing I like here is the tolerance.

I mentioned the tolerance before (in part 1) and the fact that in the Netherlands people need to be tolerant because of the population density. In my experience, neighbours tend to be more tolerant here than in the other countries I’ve lived in. During the yearly burendag, initiated by Douwe Egberts in 2006 and since 2008 joined by the Oranje Fonds, neighbours get together in order to get to know each other. In our neighbourhood we celebrate this with a big BBQ and games for the children.

3) Related to 1) and 2) is this feeling of gezelligheid and the freedom that I really like. In an interview I once said that I consider the Dutch mentality as refreshing: “Dutch people are happy people, they enjoy their lives and value the life outside of their career.” Some may not agree, but having lived in Switzerland and Italy before coming here, I must say that the way to live here and to enjoy the free-time is much relaxter and people are much more easy-going.

4) They know how to party! Yes, in the Netherlands people know how to party, how to have fun! At Birthdayparties it is custom not only to congratulate the birthdayboy/girl, but also everyone else in the family! “Gefeliciteerd met de verjaardag van je zoon/dochter/man/moeder/vader…” And generally speaking about parties, I have to say that I’ve never felt uncomfortable or bored at a party here. There’s always something going on and people know how to make you feel comfortable. – I know that at this point some of my British or non-European friends would mention the greeting with three kisses because they feel very uncomfortable with kissing and shaking hands with people they barely know (and sometimes even friends), but for me it’s nothing special. I’m used to kiss and shake hands, hug. – I’ll write a post about the different greetings in Europe soon.

DSC024825) I like that I can take my bike to go almost everywhere here. We all have bikes, my children since a very early age. With my bakfiets I used to do my groceries with all three children in it (I can load up to 100 kg). Not anymore, as they all can ride their own bikes now, but I still prefer doing my shopping with my “favourite car”. The fact that everything is so close makes this aspect of the daily life very easy. What I really appreciate here is that people rides the bikes in a different way: In Switzerland or Germany, people usually have road bikes  (or mountain bikes) and they ride in a bent position, face down, whereas people here sit up straight on their bikes.

6) The Netherlands is not such a big country. Everything is relatively close. In The Hague area, if you’re interested in culture, you can visit musea in Rijswijk, The Hague (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum, Meermanno, Kinderboekenmuseum, Museon, Fotomuseum, Escher in het Paleis, Beelden an Zee, Gevangenenpoort, Letterkundig Museum, Haag Historisch Museum etc.), Leiden (Botanical Garden, Naturalis, Museum Volkenkunde, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden etc.) and of course Amsterdam and Rotterdam etc. The Museumkaart enables you to have free or reduced access to about 400 musea in the Netherlands and even in some places in Germany.

In The Hague you can visit Madurodam. You can visit the Zoo: Diergaarde Blijdorp in Rotterdam or Sealife in Scheveningen.. If you visit the Netherlands in May-June, the Keukenhof is a must. The Haagse Markt is an incredible market! You can find fresh fish, spices, nuts, grains, and loads of items from Asia and Middle East. For children there are plenty of in- and outdoor playgrounds, but the best “playground” is the beach. The coast is beautiful. You can have long walks and bikerides in the Dunes. Also the Veluwe (in Gelderland) is worth a visit! You can find precious informations about what to do with kids here  and here.

cropped-beach2013.jpg7) If I should ever have to leave the Netherlands, I would terribly miss the closeness to the sea! Probably because I grew up next to the Alps (I could see the Monte Rosa from my room window) but going to the beach always feels like holidays to me. And the beach is huge! We have great strandtenten on the beach where you can spend a whole day, the children can play and you can have a coffee or a meal. You are free to walk for miles and in the winter months people are even allowed to walk their dogs.

8) And the vast sky… I like the vast sky. Every time we come back from Switzerland, we take a deep breath and enjoy this Dutch sky! I know that some people complain about the weather, but honestly, I’ve never lived in any country here in Europe where people were happy about the weather. What I like here is the generally milde climate. Generally because we just had a few very cold and long winters. – You can see the sky almost every day. While I lived in Zurich I remember that in the winter I barely saw the sky for months. We had to go up in the mountains to find some sun in the weekends, but in the valleys etc. it was quite sombre.

9) They love children. I’ve experienced having a child in Italy and thought that there can’t be another country where children are as much loved as there, but I was wrong. Here in the Netherlands I found the same kindness towards children that I was used to in Italy. I always got help to lift the stroller in a bus or tram (where is always space to leave a stroller) and children are welcome in all the restaurants and public places.

10) Dutch people are very friendly. I rarely encountered people with a grumpy face on the street and usually, when I smile at people, they smile back. I tried to do the same at people in other countries and was frustrated because nobody did even notice my smile… I know that some people complain about the Dutch rudeness, but I would rather call it straightforwardness. To someone like me (who doesn’t like to pussyfood around), this directness seems actually refreshing.

11) I’m happy to see so many old and/or disabled people in the street! They can go really everywhere with their rollators and they do!

Do you live in the Netherlands and would like to add some positive things you like in this country? Please feel free to add them by leaving a reply!


This post has been republished on on November the 26th 2013

30 replies »

  1. Very interesting articles. I have a number of Dutch friends and I have to agree with you on all of your points. I personally really like their directness because you always know where you stand with them. It is refreshing!

  2. Thank you, Suzanne et Pierre, for your very quick reply! – Yes, I have to say that I find this directness even relaxing, especially when I come from meetings where you really have to read between the lines, ponder every word you say…

    • Thank you for your reply. I’m glad you like to live in the Netherlands too. Could you maybe send me the link to your friend’s blog post again? I couldn’t access it with the one you gave me. – I guess that was a hint about the language? 😉

      • I greatly enjoy living here because of all he reasons you specified and I put in my last comment. I do not have any Dutch friends as yet, but I am also not trying so my fault… but otherwise, yes! And the closenss to water-love!!!! ANd let me share my friend Tarja’s becauriful blog post- i agree with her even though i am not a fan of the g-sound- it makes my name sound horrible!

      • Ha, Olga, the “g” sound is something Dutch and Swissgerman have in common. I know that it sounds very “hard” but for Swiss ears it’s quite familiar. I couldn’t find the post you mention (it gave me a post-error message). I’m glad you also enjoy living here. I recently was asked why I wouldn’t consider moving to another country. I realized that I honestly like living here for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. And I would add another thing I really enjoy every year: the long evenings in Summer. I like it to sit outside while the children are already asleep (so, after 8.30ish ;-)) and still enjoy some “daylight”.

  3. Oh, I look forward to the European Greetings post!
    I do so hate the kissy thing. They do that here in Spain, too. I don’t mind shaking hands, being German I’m used to that, but I don’t want a total stranger’s face on mine! Far too close for comfort….

  4. The sea, tolerance and the possibility of going by bike to nearly everywhere are enough for me 🙂 I want to move today! ha ha ha I wish my husband would be more open to moving abroad. I miss the sea a lot!

  5. I totally understand, Madrexilio: every time we come back from vacations it’s what we appreciate the most too. – Maybe you can come and visit before moving 😉 ?

    • Thank you, Nahla, for mentioning the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Yes, it is very impressive. I wouldn’t visit it with small children, but from 9 years upwards, it’s a place you can visit. Yes, during wars people is able to do incredible things to try to survive…

  6. Perfectly Written;-)

    I really like The Scheveningen beach in The Hague too,
    I like the Netherlands foods, especially fish! In Russia, where I come from, herring is like the national dish – but, the Dutch people make it better(probably the point is that they put more vinegar, and there has to be a secret ingredient = herring is more piquant,spicy), it is the opinion of many Russians)) also see food as fresh shrimp, mussels, and etc. The only negative thing that Pastry – uniform, boring as croissants:-)) I have never tasted delicious dessert in NL 😮
    So the same fruits and vegetables.. even in the AH stores very high quality, always fresh!
    And of course the personal bike is freedom, especially in Amsterdam. I’ve visited all the major cities in the country, except Maastricht;-o (but I was in Cologne,Dusseldorf the “closest” city to the Netherlands). And also I used to live in Belgium,
    In general, a lot of good things in this country compared with other European countries.

  7. Hi, loving the blog!
    I am thinking of moving to Netherlands and was very very excited. I was in Amsterdam a couple of weekends ago, and found everyone to be very friendly. However, after researching about more culture over there i am now a bit worried, so I am a very social and friendly person and extremly worried now if I will make friends over there.

    • Dear Antoinette,
      I’m sorry you feel this way. What exactly makes you worry? May I ask you why you are going to move to Amsterdam: for work, study other reasons? And what are your expectations? I think it is always good to learn about the host culture before moving and it surely helps to understand the locals. Please tell me more about what you’re worried about and I’ll be happy to help.
      I live in the Netherlands since almost 10 years (just realizing that time flies!…) and I’m happy here.

  8. I moved to Netherlands 3 months ago. I had already had an amazing party. You are so right people here know hot party. Thank you for sharing this post. Greetings! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

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